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Full text of "Folk costumes of Europe and Asia from the collection of Irene Lewisohn: March 20 to April 11, 1937."

FOLK CQJTUMES 



of Ei 



d /fsic 



arope ana /fsit\ 

from the collection of IRENE LEWISOHN 



MarcK 2o to April 11, 1937 



WORCESTER ART MUSEUM 



u 



JLhe 



exhibition of European peasant 
and Eastern costumes to be held at the Worcester 
Art Museum, March 20-April 11, will show a 
limited range of dress worn today by peoples in 
certain parts of Europe and Asia. Regional cos- 
tumes of different sections of the world have often 
been made available for study and enjoyment but 
this particular exhibition will give a bird's-eye 
view of the character of dress of twenty-three 
countries. 

"It is significant that a museum which concerns 
itself with the finest examples of historic, archeo- 
logic and modern art, attaches importance to the 
living art impulses of peoples as expressed in their 
dress. Perhaps through no other medium can so 
vividly be seen the sense of form and design 
inherent in every race. Americans inherit the 
traditions of all races and all peoples and bear 
within them rich cultures that may consciously, 
as well as unconsciously, stimulate new creative 



expressions. For this reason, in addition to the 
colorful experience of a Cook's Tour within four 
walls, it may be of value to the artistic and indus- 
trial life of this country to cherish and compare 
symbols that have been woven and stitched into 
garments that still adorn villages, mountains and 
plains of transoceanic lands. All too soon will these 
clothes, which grew naturally and organically from 
the climates and modes of life, be entirely dis- 
placed by the standardized contributions of the 
machine. Already they are difficult to find. Com- 
munities that have escaped the subtle influences of 
power-loom and movie have been laid waste of 
color and individuality by the proclamation of 
Eastern potentates. Threads that were once cun- 
ningly woven into bridal veils or daily working 
clothes, may soon be carefully gathered into cases 
by specialists seeking rare objects of past civiliza- 
tions. 

"The collection, of which the costumes on view 
at the Worcester Art Museum form a part r was 
gathered during twenty-five years and was inspired 



by the particular needs of the Neighborhood Play- 
house, an experimental theater founded in New 
York City in 1915. Interpretation of folkways and 
rituals has always been one of the purposes and 
* activities of the Neighborhood Playhouse and 
productions representing the basic aspirations of 
various races and peoples have had a place in its 
repertoire. An Arab fantasia, a Roumanian 
rhapsody, Biblical festivals, and a Sanskrit drama, 
The Little Clay Cart, are a few of the dramatic 
presentations of this type that demanded knowledge 
and data on which to base the visual pictures, 
which became theatrical renderings inspired by 
authentic design and cut. In the case of the 
Japanese No Tamura, the actual costumes, including 
masks of that superbly conventionalized ritual 
drama of Japan, served to dress the translation in 
proper line and proportion, and these performances 
in 1917 were probably the first attempt to convey 
to American audiences something of the glamor 
and intensity achieved by the No theater. The 
kimonos, akin to those still worn by lamas in 



Sikkim and Tibet, were specially woven with 
symbolic patterns related to the theme of the play 
or characters, and were handed down from genera- 
tion to generation just as the acting itself was an 
inherited profession. The wooden masks, often 
carved and signed by distinguished artists of the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, represent types 
such as a Tennin (Heavenly Lady), a Waki 
(priest), a warrior-hero, a demon. The examples 
on view were originally in the collection of Kongo 
San, head of the No School in Kyoto. 

"Authentic costumes have played such a vital 
role in the building of modern theatrical produc- 
tions and also in modern fashion design exemplified 
by the Persian, peasant and Cambodian line in 
recent years, to mention only a few, that a special 
place for the study and display of this fascinating 
subject has been clearly indicated. In 1928 a few 
people, interested in the theater, in textiles and in 
art generally, organized an exhibition of costumes 
at the Art Center in New York with a museum as 
the eventual objective. Although the response and 



interest were overwhelming, the subsequent years 
of depression put an end to further plans. Now, 
however, the time seems ripe and an organization 
is being formed to establish in New York a center 
for the study and display of the dress and accessories 
of all epochs and all peoples, which may serve 
industrialists, artists, art historians, craftsmen, and 
students of all kinds, as well as stimulate in the 
general public an awareness of the importance of 
dress in the development of the human race and the 
relation of this field of design to the present and 
future creative impulses in American life. 

"Even a casual glance at certain examples 
immediately discloses the relationship of epoch to 
epoch, basic form to basic form. The dress of a 



Boyar woman of the nineteenth century, until 
lately worn by the peasants of Great Russia, is 
evidently derived from that of the Virgin on 
Byzantine ikons. More recently the halo headdress 
seems to have been adapted into last Spring's 
model from Paris. The women of Ramullah, a 
village forty miles from Jerusalem, may have set 
the fashion for ski caps by way of the vizored 
helmets worn by the Crusaders, and the draped sari 
of the Hindu woman has appeared in modified 
line in chic drawing-rooms. 

"Those visiting the Worcester Art Museum 
will have an opportunity to test these theories for 
themselves and to weigh the value of a compara- 
tive study of the adornment of remote peoples." 

IRENE LEWISOHN 



4 WORCESTER ART MUSEUM J